The Fate of the Furious (2017) [Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital]

With the death of Paul Walker and the unstoppable ego of Vin Diesel, “The Fate of the Furious” signals a rock bottom point in the movie series that we haven’t seen since “Fast and Furious.” As the series runs on fumes, the writers and producers are working over time to introduce us to dynamic new anti-heroes, all of whom can’t make “Fate of the Furious” worth watching. Unless you’re a completionist, or a hardcore Kurt Russell fanatic, “Fate of the Furious” is a convoluted and painfully long follow up that tries very hard to fill the void Paul Walker left when he died.

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The Fate of the Furious (2017)

At this point you know what you’re getting with the “Fast and the Furious” movie series, but they also seem to be thinking of new ways to get ridiculous. While you can’t really expect realism with these movies (seriously, gravity does not exist in this world), “Fate of the Furious” reaches new heights of absurdity that it becomes comical; and not the good kind of comical, either. Where James Bond had “Die Another Day” where he surfed a tsunami on a plane door and parachute, “The Fate of the Furious” has its own “jump the shark” moment. But this one involves a missile chasing a car, and Dwayne Johnson merely leaning out of a high speed car and pushing the missile away with his hand, allowing it to divert in to the car of a bad guy. It’s that point where I realized that it’s about time for the series to come to an end.

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Firestarter (1984): Collector’s Edition [Blu-Ray]

If there’s anything that Stephen King loves to write about, it’s powerful children with god-like abilities, and I imagine considering most of his stories connect in to a universe, someone with Danny Torrance’s abilities is married to someone with the abilities from “Firestarter.” Mike Lester’s adaptation of the Stephen King novel is not a masterpiece, but I still insist it’s a fun movie with a good amount of effort behind it. The only thing it really suffers from is being ahead of its time. I imagine were we given a new adaptation “Firestarter” might be a mix of dazzling and disturbing a la “Carrie.” As it is, “Firestarter” is mostly a compelling horror drama about another very powerful young girl who is being hunted by the government.

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Foreign Body (Corps Etranger) (2016) [Toronto International Film Festival 2016]

foreignbody-01A group of people risks their lives crossing to France in a small, unsafe boat, escaping the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia.  A few of them survive, including Samia who tries to adapt to the life of an illegal in France as best she can.  She comes across some people from back home and a woman willing to help as she discovers the joys and fears of her new life. Writer/director Raja Amari writes and directs a masterful film about a young woman adapting to her new environment.  She shows the plight of many illegal (and legal) immigrants who are escaping violence and bad situations with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

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Francesca (2015) [FrightFest 2016]

FrancescaIn Italy, a detective and an inspector investigate a string of murders happening in their city.  They are soon led to a 15 year old kidnapping case which may shed some light on their current investigation. Director Luciano Onetti with his co-writer Nicolas Onetti builds an almost perfect old school giallo, however it was shot in 2015.  Their film builds a story and characters straight out of the subgenre and these create an entertaining film about two police detectives looking for a serial killer.

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Fanarchy (2015)

fanarchyFans get a really bad rap these days and for good reason. The fan community was once derided and ostracized and is now doing the deriding and ostracizing toward anyone that tries to integrate themselves in to a fandom. That said, being a fan or a part of a fan community isn’t always bad, and “Fanarchy” is merely an ode to the fans. Most of all it’s a tribute to how much influence the fan community has had on pop culture at large and how they can use their love for characters and properties to help fuel their lives and inspire hope and strength. No one has been harder on fans than I have this year, but Donna Davies offers up a look at how fans can also do great things and inspire one another to reach for creativity and aspirations.

Davies spans the globe looking at various fans and fan communities that have achieved some remarkable feats. Some of them have become massive pop culture phenomenon, while Davies also sets the light on more personal and touching stories. Some of the more interesting stories involve the career of beloved geek goddess Brea Grant, who is most recognized for her work in shows like “Heroes” and has spent a lot of her acting career producing the kind of work she wants to. There’s also the inspiring story of one of the first fan films ever made for “Raiders of the Lost Ark” which drew the attention of Steven Spielberg. It also became such a fan favorite at festivals that it garnered its own book and is currently being developed in to a movie.

The most inspiring story though is the tale of Maya Glick whose rabid fandom for X-Men character Storm helped her push through some really tough times in her life and helped her grow as a person and find a form of personal victory. It’s also interesting to see how Ms. Glick has absolutely no love for Storm’s depiction in the “X-Men” movies which prompted her to make her own fan film, with a strong and fierce version of her favorite character. In the end “Fanarchy,” is a very breezy and entertaining ode to being fan boy or fan girl. Sure, the fan community has been very dark and volatile over the last few years, Donna Davies does a bang up job of showing how fandom can entertain, benefit pop culture, and benefit the fans personally.

The Funhouse Massacre (2015) [Blu-Ray]

FHMBRWell, damn.

I honestly never go in to a movie hoping its bad, but most times I almost never go in to a horror movie with high expectations. I went in to “The Funhouse Massacre” with almost no expectations, and oddly enough ended up with a damn good and damn fun splatter horror comedy. Not only did I thoroughly enjoy “The Funhouse Massacre,” but I plan to re-visit it during Halloween. Were I wealthy enough, I’d even buy a bunch of copies and put them in the bags of select trick or treaters. If you love Halloween, director Andy Palmer’s horror comedy is a blast, and the very definition of a Halloween treat. Granted, there are some flaws here and there (blatant CGI sky shots, and a brutally predictable final scene), but once you forgive them, you can appreciate the good intentions Andy Palmer has for the audience.

“The Funhouse Massacre” is gory, it’s sadistic, it’s funny, and it has a damn creative concept I had a lot of fun with. Director Palmer charges in to the premise head first, even giving a logical reason as to why literally no one recognizes these serial killers occupying a Halloween funhouse. Palmer’s movie feels almost like a stand alone Batman tale, where Candice De Visser plays a demented psychopath and brutally sexy maniac in the vein of Harley Quinn, who breaks out a group of vicious serial killers from a local asylum. Jere Burns is fantastic as Mental Manny, the ring leader of the funhouse killers who almost seems to be channeling his version of the Joker, at times. Burns was always a fine actor, but he goes the extra mile here. When the group of killers invades a local funhouse, unsuspecting Halloween fans walk in to death and murder.

We follow a group of friends out for the night, prepared for laughs, unaware that the gore and splatter around them are really helpless victims walking in to the slaughter. Realizing what’s happening much too late, the group is locked in the funhouse without any escape. It’s now up to a local sheriff, her inept deputy, and one of the group’s survivors to stop them. A lot of the mayhem and premise certainly has a catch to it, as Palmer isn’t content with just throwing blood at the wall, offering a very slick reveal in the chaotic climax that I thought really tied the movie together. The collective cast is just top notch, as Palmer brings the best out of his performers, from a small cameo by Robert Englund, to a very funny supporting performance by Ben Begley who steals scenes left and right.

“The Funhouse Massacre” is a grab bag of laughs, gore, and creeps, and it’s definitely a horror comedy you should look in to come October. The Blu-Ray release from Scream Factory comes with an interesting audio commentary with director Andy Palmer, producer Warner Davis and actors Clint Howard and Courtney Gains. There’s “Popcorn Talk’s Video Commentary” with director Andy Palmer and co-writers/co-stars Ben Begley and Renee Dorian. There’s the three minute segment “A Day on the Set,” a five minute Production Diary, and the original Theatrical trailer for “The Funhouse Massacre.”


Finding Dory (2016)

findingdoryI, like many other people, were wondering why there even needed to be a sequel to “Finding Nemo” that focused on Dory. Granted, Dory was a charming supporting character, and Ellen DeGeneres was great, but Dory always seemed like a character you could quickly get bored with. Surprisingly, director Andrew Stanton not only proves that Dory is worth focusing an entire film on, but that her story deserved to be told just as much as Marlin and Nemo’s did. Stanton and co. follow a very non–linear storyline for the sequel; “Finding Dory” goes back in time to follow the blue Tang we know as Dory, then cuts off as she meets Marlin, and begins a year later where she’s now living with Marlin and Nemo and acting as Nemo’s surrogate guardian alongside Marlin.

Dory, much like Nemo, was born with just as much of a disadvantage. While “Finding Nemo” conveyed the trials, tribulations, and worries of raising a child with a physical disability, “Finding Dory” uses Dory’s short term memory loss as a metaphor for the trials, tribulations, and worries that come with raising a child with a mental illness or mental disability. Raising Dory isn’t so much a burden for her parents Jenny and Charlie, as they approach her lack of memory with as much patience and consideration as possible. They’re well meaning and lovely parents that do everything in their power to help Dory channel her disability in to an advantage all while turning it in to a fun game.

But they can only do so much, since they don’t really seem to accept that Dory’s condition is permanent and may be a part of who she is for the rest of her life. Plus, as she ages, the world is looking more and more appealing to her, so it soon becomes a race for her parents to make her handicapable before their worst fears of the ocean swallowing her up come to fruition. Sadly, Dory does get lost, and her short term memory becomes a constant pitfall in her efforts to reunite with her parents. Before long, she’s forgotten that she’s even lost, and years have passed on. Thus she meets her fate with Marlin and Nemo, which gives her a newfound perspective and the confidence that she can find her parents once again. “Finding Dory” opens up the world we saw in “Finding Nemo” by adding a new slew of fun and lovable characters.

I especially loved Hank the Septopus, Destiny a near sighted Whale Shark, and a pair of Walrus’ comically protective of their perching rock. “Finding Dory” isn’t just a callback to the original film, but the narrative literally centers on Dory trying to find her memories and her family which ultimately represents herself. DeGeneres is even better here than in the first film as Dory, as she injects a lot of complexity and true emotions in the character and her journey to find her family which she is convinced will help improve her memory in the long run. “Finding Dory” is fantastic as director Andrew Stanton and co. give Dory brand new obstacles and dimensions, and comprise a funny, exciting, and incredibly heartbreaking tale of overcoming a handicap and leaning on family when the world is at its darkest.